Food & dining

Elegant classics for your holiday table

Beef Wellington
Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe
Beef Wellington

Often during the holidays, we turn to timeless favorites to adorn our tables. Beef Wellington and salmon coulibiac are elegant showpieces rooted deeply in classic Continental cuisine. One technique with slight variations in components yields two impressive entrees.

Traditionally, beef Wellington consists of seared tenderloin topped with a cooked mushroom (duxelles) mixture and a thin slice of foie gras. Here, add a layer of mustard for a flavor boost and choose any type of commercially available pate. Salmon coulibiac, feast of the czars, begins with a seared salmon fillet and is topped with herbed rice, spinach, mushrooms, and hard-boiled eggs. Again, add a smear of mustard for extra flavor.

To prepare both recipes, be sure to fully defrost puff pastry and phyllo dough ahead of time in the refrigerator. It is best to pull them from the freezer a day in advance. Keep the pastry cold while working with individual portions. Dufour brand, sold at many fine grocers, is the same high quality found in commercial kitchens. Pepperidge Farm is a good alternative, though the package and sheet sizes are not the same; cut sheets into halves instead of quarters. Phyllo dough, which encases the protein and accompaniments fully, replaces the more traditional crepe and provides a moisture barrier that prevents the puff pastry from becoming soggy. If the phyllo rips or tears, simply patch with another small piece. Chill the parcels before baking, brush with egg wash, and place into a very hot oven for the best puff. To save time on the day of a big event, complete all steps with the exception of wrapping in puff pastry. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to encase them in puff pastry and bake them.

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Both entrees are wonderful served alone but can be accented with a simple wine-butter sauce. Choose red wine for beef and white for salmon. Bring a half-cup of wine to a boil and reduce volume by half. Remove from heat and whisk in a cold stick of butter, cut into small cubes. Do not boil or overheat the sauce. Finish with a handful of herbs, if desired.

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While the preparations are time-consuming, much labor is saved by using purchased puff pastry. The presentation and flavors remain the same, and your guests will feel like royalty as they feast upon these golden parcels.

Beef Wellington

Serves 6

1pound cremini mushrooms
4tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
2large shallots, finely chopped
1tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
¼cup brandy
½cup heavy cream
36ounces beef tenderloin, cut into 6 6-ounceportions
2tablespoons Dijon mustard
4-6ounces liver pate
6sheets phyllo dough, thawed in refrigerator (plus some extra for repairs)
3tablespoons melted butter
Flour, for sprinkling
2sheets puff pastry (2 14-ounce packages), thawed in the refrigerator
1egg, lightly beaten
Coarse salt, for sprinkling

1. Have on hand 2 baking sheets lined with parchment. Set oven at 425 degrees. In a food processor, working in batches, finely chop mushrooms.

2. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add mushrooms and salt. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add shallots and thyme. Cook for 5 minutes more. Remove pan from heat. Stir in brandy. Return to heat and cook for 3 minutes more. Stir in cream. Cook for 3 minutes more, or until thick. Transfer mixture to a plate. Spread into a thin layer and cool.

3. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1½ tablespoons of the butter. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Place 3 steaks in pan and sear for 3-5 minutes per side, or until well browned. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining 1½ tablespoons butter and steaks.

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4. When steaks are cool enough to handle, spread 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard on one cut side of each. Smear a thin slice of liver pate on top of each steak. Top each steak with ¼ cup of the mushroom mixture (duxelles).

5. Unwrap phyllo dough and lay out on the counter. Cover with a damp paper towel while you are working. Separate one sheet from the rest. Place on counter and brush with butter. Wrap a piece of steak in a sheet of buttered phyllo dough, tucking excess dough under steak. Repair any large rips or tears with a small piece from another sheet of buttered phyllo. Repeat with all 6 steaks. Set on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

6. On a lightly floured counter, cut each sheet of puff pastry into quarters. (You will have 2 extra pieces that can be used to make decorative garnishes, for mistakes, or for another project.) Place all but one of the pieces into the refrigerator. Roll the piece into a 9-inch-by-9-inch square. Place one steak, mushroom side down, in the center of the pastry. Wrap the pastry around the steak, brushing beaten egg anywhere the pastry overlaps. Turn it over (creating a smooth top with all of the edges folded neatly underneath) and place the wrapped steak on another sheet pan lined with parchment. Store the wrapped steaks in the refrigerator while you repeat with the remaining puff pastry and steaks. Once you have finished wrapping them all, chill for an additional 10 minutes.

7. Brush each beef Wellington with beaten egg. Use a sharp knife to gently score a pattern or design into the pastry, if you like. Be careful not to cut all the way through the dough. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for 30 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and steaks are cooked to 140 degrees for medium. Rest 10 minutes before serving. Karoline Boehm Goodnick

Karoline Boehm Goodnick can be reached at kboehmgoodnick@gmail.com